Thursday, March 31, 2011

When Evil Enters

By Cheri Chesley

Last night, I did something I know I shouldn't do. I read the online news articles that caught my eye. I don't usually do this because the evil and depravity in the world really depresses me, and it tends to stick with me. One particular story I read really chilled me. I'll spare you the details, but it involved the live-streamed over the internet assault of a 2 yr old girl by her mother. Horrible.

We all know there is evil in the world, and things are going to get much worse before they get better. Signs of the times.

But, as a writer, I feel a particular obligation to write uplifting stories. Does that mean there is no evil in them? No. In fact, the book I just finished had a particularly depraved antagonist. The kind of sneaky, vile, stop-at-nothing bad guy. It's sort of a "higher the stakes, the greater the reward" story. That's the redeeming thing about fiction--the good guy can always win. I think we all want to believe that about life, which is why we find fiction so appealing. :)

Interestingly enough, I received a Priesthood blessing a year or so ago that directly addressed this in my writing. I could show evil for what it is; I didn't have to shy away from it, but could instead show the reality of evil in my stories. I've thought about that a great deal since then. And, like everyone, I hope I'm doing it right.

I'm sure none of this is news to other writers. We can't have good stories without conflict, so there must be some evil in them. But, while we don't have to show all the gory details, we shouldn't gloss over the effects of evil, or the potential for disaster.

After all, it's what makes a good story.

Monday, March 28, 2011

If I could Do It All Over Again... Part III

This is the final of a three part series of my report of a panel discussion between Kathlene Dalton-Woodbury, Brad R. Torgersen, Dave Wolverton/Farland and Lisa Mangum on the topic: What I would Do Differently if I Could Do it All Over Again.

We pick up the discussion where we left off last time.

Dave said networking is a good thing. He recommended being nice to everyone because you never know when someone will end up being a key player in your success as a writer. He gave an example from his own career where he struck up a friendship with a Barnes and Nobel store manager who later on became the main buyer for all Barnes and Nobel stores who always bought his books and promoted them.

A question from the audience: "Is it better to write short stories or novels?"
The answer from the panel was: yes. They said to think about what you like to read and to write the story as long as it needs to be. For a career choice, novels are better because you can't make a living on short story publications. They also said that magazine editors are always looking for new short story authors because they get snatched up by book editors. Write the scenes that excite you when they excite you and it will be more exciting for the reader. There's no one right way to write.

Another question: "In talking about not having your manuscript perfect, you still want to have it at some point of professionalism, right?" The answer: "Don't send it in if it's stupid." The panel members suggested giving your manuscript to potential audience members or a writing group, then rewriting it and then send it out.

Another question from the audience: "How picky is an editor about punctuation?"

Dave said there are many old, crusty editors out there who will be stopped by bad punctuation.

Brad, on the other hand, said that when he submitted his manuscript it had errors, but his editor didn't care. He said you don't have to be perfect.

The panel members were asked for their final words of advice here's what they said:

Dave: "Take responsibility for your own career. Take responsibility for your training, dress, code ethics, finding market, etc. Don't rely on anyone else. You are the person who cares the most about your career. It's yours. Enjoy it."

Lisa: "Be honest. Be honest with yourself about your skills, what you love, what you can't and can do. If you're honest to your story and do right by your characters. Just do it. You'll learn as you go what kind of writer you want to be."

Kathleen: "Read books about how to write. There are lots of them out there. Read ones that make you think about what you want to write. Your mind will start to wander. That's what you want. You want it to wander to the story you're writing on. Put down the book and start to write. That kind of book will help you get to your writing. Orson Scott Card has two good ones. Let them make your mind wander to your story."

Brad: "Stop procrastinating. Stop putting it off. Stop thinking and start doing! Make goals. Get disciplined. Send it out. Don't second guess yourself. Enter contests."

Dave: "One other thing I forgot: when you write and you finish something, send it out and start something else. Don't wait to see how it goes with the first one. write six more books on speculation."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

She Loved Tara

By Keith N Fisher

How many of you grew up thinking Scarlett O’Hara was a real person and Tara was a real place in Georgia? Okay, I didn’t either, but that character was so well drawn, I feel I know her very well.

In learning the craft of writing, we discover two basic types of characters, protagonists and antagonists. Yes, there are different sub classes, sidekicks, walk ons, mentors. Etc, but basically you need two main types in a story.

In delving further, we learn that an antagonist can be a thing or a feeling. But basically, the protagonist is the good guy (the one we root for). The antagonist, of course, is the opposite, the villain.

What happens when the star of the book has more villainistic qualities then good?”

Many of you might remember the 80’s television show, Dallas. TV Guide once applauded a character from that show by saying JR Ewing is the man you love to hate. Now JR was clearly a real antagonist. He messed with everybody and everybody hated him. The writers never showed a good side to that character and justifiably so. He, after all, was the villain.

In Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell wrote many clearly drawn antagonists like General Sherman, although we never actually see him in the story. Another one is the Yankee soldier who slowly climbs the stairs to rape Scarlott. We let out a cleansing breath and applaud when she shoots him dead.

There are also many protagonists, Ashley Wilkes, Mammy, and who doesn’t admire Melanie? With all the good and decent protagonists, the Scarlett character seems almost enigmatic. She’s so selfish we want to slap her silly, but we love and sympathize with her, at the same time. The interesting part is she never changes. She’s just as selfish, spoiled, conniving, and despicable as when we see her on the first page. So why do we love that character? How can we, in good conscience, call her a protagonist?

I think the secret is in what she loves and how deeply she loves. Her feelings are clear from the beginning. We know she loves her home, and we know whom she loves. We also know she is willing to do anything to protect those people and things. The character has a strong personality that plays second to know one.

Okay, so, in the first half of the book, she marries one guy to get back at the man she loves, She doesn’t feel remorse when her husband, dies in the war. Then, she lies about her sister’s interest in another man just so she can marry him and use his money to go into the lumber business. She sent him to his death and gets drunk because she realizes she’s liable to go to hell for doing it. But does she show actual remorse?

Well, As Rhett Butler, another character put it, You're like the thief who isn't the least bit sorry he stole, but is terribly, terribly sorry he's going to jail.

Yes she’s a real peach of a person and the antagonist to everyone else in the story, but she’s also a protagonist and we can’t seem to figure out why. Even Mammy can’t help but love her, Maybe it’s because she does what she wants to do and doesn’t care what people think.

Mitchell makes us feel sorry for her on several occasions. We even admire her when she rules with a firm uncaring hand in order to support her family after the Yankees decimate Georgia.

Writers learn to write characters with faults in order to make them real, but what faults can we give them and still make them believable? How far can we go before they they become laughable? What if Scarlott was ugly or had a speech impediment? What if she was weak and indecisive? Would we still love her then? Scarlott O’Hara is a wonderful character with shallow thoughts and deeds, but those shallow thoughts are very deep.

“Huh?” you ask?

Well, I told you she was an enigma. I. For one, applaud Margaret Mitchell for drawing her. She found the perfect balance. May you also, find this balance and write characters who jump off the page and take on a life of their own.

By the way, there’s a girl in the neighborhood named Margaret, who gives Dennis the Menace a hard time. What would happen if she married Dennis? Her name would be Margaret Mitchell.

Good Luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Swiss Cheese

by G.Parker

I read a post by a friend (well, as far as I'm concerned we're friends, but we've never met personally, I just love reading her blog) commented on her blog that she is loosing her mind.  She had called her husband and somewhere in between dialing him and pressing send, she forgot why.  She drove home and still couldn't remember why she'd called him.  She said that sometimes memory loss is linked to stress, and she'd had plenty of that.

I have one better for you - my brain is made of swiss cheese.  I have her situation in spades.  Some days it's better, some it's worse - but on an average, if I don't write something down, it's usually gone by the day I'm needing to remember it.  I get up to go get something and totally forget what I was doing.  Fortunately, it usually comes back when I retrace my thought pattern, so I guess I don't have Alzheimer's yet, (or oldtimers as we tease each other at my house) but it's a worry.  At least I've finally come to grips with the fact that if I don't write it down, it usually doesn't remain in the gray matter - it finds one of the swiss holes and hides away.

Have you ever run into that with regards to your writing?  You're humming a long, writing a great scene that you meant to take notes on while you were driving home, but couldn't stop and pull over but half way through the idea is gone.  Nada.  Zip.  Where did it go??

Well, I'm thinking we need to send a party of scientist to Switzerland and investigate if the stuff going in our holes is ending up in their country.  I mean, the things disappearing in the holes has to go somewhere, doesn't it?  There has to be a stock pile of story ideas, scraps of scenes that get lost, snatches of plots that have been forgotten somewhere, lying in some farmers barn, overloading some poor cow.

I'd volunteer, but obviously I'm not a scientist, and I'd probably forget why we were going there half way to the airport.  
Sigh.  Cheese.  You got to love it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good News

by Cheri Chesley

I missed last week's post because I had no internet. Though I did consider getting down to the library and accessing internet that way, I have been turned away before because of sheer numbers, and with my day to day house/kids/babysitting/homeschool schedule, it's not that easy.

But I didn't waste my week. Without internet, I found it much easier to work on my story, finishing the second draft of my novel. Finally. Three months beyond my scheduled completion date, but I'm done. Sigh.

Now I have to go through it and add the little details that I missed. Don't worry, I took copious notes. :) I love having the sticky note option on my desktop. Every time I turn on the computer, I'm reminded of the things I need to still do.

The fun of not having internet is that I get much more done. I was so productive, in fact, my husband suggested we simply turn off the internet entirely. Don't worry--I laughed at him.

How would I network? How would I keep in touch with all my writer friends? How would I get that wonderful inspiration to keep going without sharing my joys, and sorrows, with them? And then there's the blogging, and the website, and . . . . Yes, internet is here to stay. But at least I'm learning about my own scheduling weaknesses. :)

In short, I'm glad to be back. The break was nice, but it's nice to be connected again.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday TOOT: Three Manuscript Requests!

By Darvell Hunt

In my writing group, Authors Incognito, we have a practice of announcing writing successes on Tuesday in what we call "Tuesday TOOTS!" (And yes, we generally capitalize the letters in TOOT and add an exclamation point, because we are yelling it from the rooftops! Tooting your own horn should be LOUD!)

Since today is Tuesday, I've decided to share my own Tuesday TOOT! with my blogcking friends.

One week ago yesterday, I started querying for my middle-grade novel There's an Alien in My Head! This was after a break for a few months, because I felt I needed to rework my query. I was only getting form rejections and decided that I wasn't 100% confident with my query letter. So I spent a few months working on it.

Then, from last Monday to Saturday, I queried 18 literary agents by email with my new query letter. By yesterday afternoon, one full week later, I had received three manuscript requests--two full requests and one partial. I must say that I was rather pleased--heck, I'll be honest, I was elated!

Granted, manuscript requests are still a long way from selling my novel, but still, it's one step closer to my goal--a step that I've never taken before.

My story hasn't changed much since I queried last year, but my query certainly has--so I'm attributing the difference in results solely to my query letter. I've now gotten both rejections and requests for manuscripts--and I like requests better.

Next time I plan to blog about the method I used to refocus my query letter. You can also check back then for an update on my querying process.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Comments Beget Comments

By Keith N Fisher

I want to thank all of those who leave their thoughts in the comment section of my posts. You provide validation to me in my struggle to perfect this crazy occupation of writing. In pondering my blog posts lately, and the number of comments I get, I was reminded of a networking axiom and coined the phrase, comments beget comments.

When I first started posting, I got a few negative remarks, but there were many more supportive ones. I counted on the perspective of my peers to help me determine if my writing was any good. Later, I discovered most of those who posted remarks were writers I’d met at writer’s conferences and other events somewhere. They were bloggers themselves, so I’d reciprocate by reading and commenting on their blogs.

I learned that networking wasn’t just chatting at writer’s events, it was taking the time to become invested in the work of fellow writers. For that reason, I began to follow the circuit. It was simple at first, because few writing blogs existed at the time. We were all one, big happy family and keeping in touch only took a few minutes a day.

Later, as time restraints set in and the number of blogs exploded, I visited the circuit less frequently. My fan base dwindled, but friendships grew, and I learned many of those friends were having the same problems keeping up that I was. It was hard to visit all the blogs and still have time to write.

I had to pick and choose which blogs I would visit. I also, depended on my friends to preview the postings and tell me about the good posts. I would read those, but I never seemed to make observations.

Now there is Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Many writers, I know, spend hours branding their work and making valuable contacts through the Internet. Some of you have become masters of the network and I feel left behind. I watch for notes attached to my blogs wondering what I could write in order to grab more attention.

I know, however, that comments beget comments, so I shouldn’t expect much. Still, I love to write blogs that might be helpful for struggling writers. Therefore, I’ve learned to gage my success by the number of new readers who comment. And, it’s nice to see the old fans stop by.

I have friends who shy away from the sociality of writing. They would prefer the writing climate of forty years ago, when writers were reclusive, and publishers did all the selling. Perhaps I would just rather write, too, but I like people. I love to chat and get to know them.

So, I choose to network in person, building others as I go. I really don’t have time to visit the circuit, much, but I try. So, if you see me at a conference, book signing, or other function, stop and say hello. Tell me you like something I wrote, and I’ll reciprocate. After all, isn’t that what networking is all about?

Good luck with your writing—see you next week. Oh, and, even though I might not have commented on your blog recently, feel free to comment on mine.

Friday, March 18, 2011

by G.Parker

Many of us have been glued to the internet or news stations over the past week.  One week ago today, one of the most tragic natural disasters took place, and we were reading about it, watching it happen and living it vicariously for the next 48 hours.

It's the stuff movies are made out of, books are written and lives are changed.  Some of the video footage was pretty graphic, and it felt like I was watching a disaster movie instead of real life.  I guess they have been getting the disaster movies pretty close to the real thing - only I'm sure those that were living in it didn't think so.

It was ironic that one of the pieces we were critiquing in my critique group had a similar description in it.  I teased her that she'd planned on that chapter right at that time on purpose, but it was a empty and silly joke.  Empty because it really isn't compassionate to laugh at someone else's expense, is it?

It reminds me of the stories that came out of Haiti and Chili, and the mining accident.  I love these stories.  They are tales of courage and determination, valor and heroism.  I have admired the Japanese and the way they have been handling the crisis - with apparent dignity and calm.  There's no shot of a mad man running at the cameras, insisting he fly them out, or give them food.  They are methodically searching for survivors and the dead, hoping to find everyone that's missing.  

There was an uplifting tale of a four month old baby found in the wreckage of a home, with the parents overjoyed that she'd survived.  The sad story of a woman who'd had her child sucked from her hand as they'd ran.  Both joy and grief fill the wires and all we have to do is switch it on or off and our lives remain much the same.

It's similar to a book, isn't it?  We can choose to open it and read or leave it closed and take it into our lives or not.  As a writer, we decide if we are going to write to change the world or just bring joy.  

My heart goes out to those who are suffering in these tragedies and are in need of comfort.  My thoughts go out to those who are struggling here at home, some of our bloggers have had tragedy trike here.  It doesn't have to be a natural disaster to bring sadness and trial.  But we can all deal with it the same way, turning to our Savior, our family and friends.

Take care everyone.  Keep writing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wild Rides vs. Sunday Drives

By Darvell Hunt

Consider the following phrase:

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.”

Most people will recognize this beginning and probably have certain expectations about where you are going with it. A good writer will deliver on those expectations.

However, consider the following alternate completion of this proverb:

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; give a cat a fish, and you will have to feed it for a lifetime!”

A great writer will not only change the expectations of the reader, but deliver on the new expectations. In this case, the reader may have thought he or she knew what was coming next, but the writer changed that direction, even in mid-sentence, and supplied something that was NOT expected; nevertheless, the result was a rewarding conclusion, and we introduced some surprise into the equation, as well as some humor.

Readers typically like to anticipate what is coming, because when those expectations are met, the reader feels smart. However, unexpected twists and turns can take the reader into uncharted territory and this can result in rewards many times greater than what they were originally expecting. Feeling smart is great, but feeling wonderment is better.

I think it’s okay to lead a reader to an expected conclusion, but I think it’s better to give them whiplash and take them for a ride. A pleasant Sunday drive can be a rewarding experience, but it rarely competes with a wild roller coaster ride.

Try to aim for that exciting roller coaster ride. The reader can visit their grandparents if they wish to experience a Sunday drive.

Monday, March 14, 2011

If I could Do It All Over Again... Part II

This is a continuation of last week's blog, which are my notes from this year's LTUE symposium panel discussion, "What would I do differently if I could do it all over again?" Panel members were Kathlene Dalton-Woodbury, Brad R. Torgersen, Dave Wolverton/Farland and Lisa Mangum. You can go back to last week's post (March 7, 2011) to read the first part of the discussion.

Brad said he wished he had started seeking out events like this (LTUE). He said he was pretty isolated, just reading and writing. He didn't talk to anybody and he thinks that hurt him as a writer. He recommends getting out and talking to people. He said to get different feedback.

Kathlene believes writers groups can make a big difference. She recommended two that she's involved with: the Hatrack and Nauvoo writers groups. She said when receiving feedback, you should look for consensus. She said if three people are telling you the same thing, you may want to pay attention to what they say, If only one person is saying something and it doesn't sound right to you, feel free to ignore it. Kathlene believes that one of the benefits of a critique group is that you have to give feedback to other people, so you get to see how stories work and why they sometimes don't work. Your feedback to other people helps you learn and perceive. The things you learn can be applied to your own writing.

Brad said, "I think it's easy to look at those who are successful and try to duplicate that. Don't look at a book or anthology or magazine and just look for big names. Look for what you like. Let those stories resonate and figure out what you can apply to your writing.

Dave said he always tells new writers that they have to invest in themselves. He said we all have the same number of hours in a day. He often hears writers say they wish they could find more time to write. He never has found time to write. He has to make time to write. He likes to use TiVo for viewing television because he can cut out the commercials and watch it on his own schedule. He said he doesn't have time for TV. He also recommends reading widely. He said it's important to find out what the competition is up to. He also recommends reading books on writing and attending workshops. These are the ways writers can invest in themselves and they need to do it over and over again. It pays off if you're really serious. Dave said he knows some very good writers who simply haven't invested enough in themselves to be successful. you have to make it a priority.

Lisa said she finds it helpful for other people to give her deadlines. She said you have to recognize where you can snatch time to write, or when you can take a whole day. If someone else is controlling your deadline, you are more likely to actually finish on time. You are less likely to fudge on your time and give yourself a break if you're accountable to someone else.

Brad agreed. "Discipline was a big thing for me," he said, "I spent a lot of time thinking about being a writer and reading about being a writer. My wife finally said, 'If you keep going like this, it's never going to happen.'" Brad says you need to get off your rear and get busy. Get a regimen; get some discipline; get over the hobbyist mentality. Even the stuff you write when you think it's sludge is golden, just like what you write when you feel like it's golden.

For next week, watch for the third and final post from this panel discussion, where the panel members will answer audience questions and make their final statements.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mangling Metaphors

By Keith N Fisher

We’ve visited this subject before. In fact, you might say, we’ve gone down that road. Passed the milestone, chewed that cabbage, hit the mark, rowed the boat, and saluted that flag. We’ve been here before, on this merry-go-round of writing lessons we call the LDS Writer’s Blogck, which is sort of an acronym for the purpose of the blog. It began as a help to overcome writer’s block. Hence, the word, blog was combined with the word, block. But I’m getting off subject.

Metaphors are wonderful, because the writer can use them to provide an image the reader can understand. Jesus used metaphors to illustrate his points. I just used an image to help illustrate mine.

In the locker room of all bad detective novels, however, there seems to be a collection of misused or poorly imagined metaphors. Good writers cringe, and comedians find punch lines in the text of a Sam Spade novel. Like a bad penny, overused cliché’s, cheap metaphors, and unrelated similes turn up in novels all the time.

Okay, you get the point. If you need to draw an image for the reader, think of fresh and meaningful metaphors. Doing so, is the mark of a good writer. Also, make sure it makes sense. I’ve been listening to a popular song while at work lately. It has a mangled metaphor that caught my attention and since I can’t think of anything else to write about . . .

In a song, Josh Turner sings the words, Please baby let’s unburn all our bridges.

Now, I know it’s an effective choice of words, because it gets my attention and I understand the meaning. But, he’s taken an old metaphor and turned it backward. When we burn our bridges we hamper the chances of someone following us. We also destroy our avenue of return.

In the story behind this song, the couple parted. They burned the bridges of capitulation. Now, The singer wants to go back and make things right. He wants to (un)burn the bridges.

Quite a magical feat, don’t you think? Unless you’re Harry Potter with the elder wand, you can’t make something come back after it’s been destroyed by fire. And I just provided an example of my point below.

For the song, I could suggest rebuilding the bridges, but you might say, “We like it the way it is.”

See? It’s an effective, mangled metaphor. It works, because it’s in the chorus of a song and the listener gets to hear it four times. The song moves slow, giving us time to contemplate the image. As a novelist, the last thing I need is to have a reader debate the placement of words or consider a metaphor. If they take time for that, they’re not engaged in the story.

In the example I used, of Harry Potter, you could’ve stopped reading to debate the point of the phoenix. “Aha,” you say. “Faux is reborn from the ashes of a total flame out and he does it all the time.”

As writers of best selling novels we might be able to get away with mangling metaphors, but only if our readers are patient, and if it’s effective. The rest of us, great writers, who struggle, must be careful. As I said if we use them at all, our metaphors need to be fresh, make sense, and must not cause too much thought. Unless you’re writing literary fiction, but that’s another subject.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.
by G.Parker

While most of us like to read something that is enlightening, challenging, thought provoking, indepth...sometimes you need something silly.

I picked up two books this week, (and actually read them!) that while they are LDS in fiction, they are more of humor than of intellect.  They remind me that while we want to publish something of substance, sometimes it's good to have just a fun read.  The books were The Bishop's Bride and The Bishop's Bride, the Honeymoon's Over.  They were so full of sections of humor that I just laughed out loud.  There is a set of twins that while not as irreverent as the ones in the Harry Potter series, pretty similar in behavior and interaction.  

Humor is the best medicine, we hear it all the time.  Well, it was definitely what the doctor ordered this week.  And it brought to mind a couple of thoughts. 

I have a story I wrote several years ago that is totally predictable.  I mention it because it's similar to The Bishop's Bride, in that you know the bishop is going to get married and you know who he's going to marry.  What's fun is how it happens and they end up there.  Talk about action packed!  Well, my story isn't quite as crazy, but it's predictable and a fun romance in how it ends up.  

I sent it to a publisher and they told me it was too predictable.  Okay...and your point being?

Right after that I read something from a fairly popular LDS writer that was totally predictable and I wanted to throw it in the trash.  It had been printed by the same publisher I'd submitted to!  So I guess it sometimes comes down to who you know and your presentation.  Perhaps mine just wasn't funny enough, or engaging enough...who knows.  

But just keep in mind that there's a market out there for what you're writing.  You just have to find it.  You never know, it might be the silliness in you that gets the ink printed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Let it Shine

by Cheri Chesley

I remember being twelve and about to get in the shower when I realized I had worn my underwear inside out all day. Looking back, that pretty much sums up my life—almost ideal but with obvious mistakes.

Take my mom, for instance. Please. Kidding, Mom. She’s got an incredibly successful career as a real estate broker, and she’s gorgeous. I mean, nice hair, trim figure; my mom’s attractive. But she’s stuck with me for a daughter. Not exactly pudgy, but not trim and fit either. She smiles and introduces me as her big-boned daughter to her friends and coworkers. I admit it; I hate exercise. I walk to the library, but that’s about it. And I love junk food, but what fourteen-year-old doesn’t? We’re like junk food’s target audience.

I came across this file on my computer today. What do you think? Did I get into the head of a 14 yr old girl? Is she sympathetic to you, or is it too soon? Would this make you want to keep reading?

The problem is, I have no idea where I was going with this. It already sounds to me like some coming-of-age kind of story, where the girl has to grow to accept herself even if she's different from her idea of ideal. I think that sort of story resonates with almost everyone. I'm 35 (shhh!), but if I had a magic wand there are definitely things I'd change about me.

But then I get into this whole internal discussion about want vs. need, and how much more we tend to value something if we've truly earned it and not had it handed to us--you know, the same kinds of things I tell my kids EVERY DAY.

Yesterday, I finally finished reading 3 Nephi and read 4 Nephi, since it's so short. I'd forgotten how rich those chapters are, filled with all the things Christ would tell us if he were here with us now. Which is why I'm so grateful we have those scriptures. Here's the one that stood out to me most:

Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (3 Nephi 12:16)

(thanks to for the image)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Keep Going

by C. LaRene Hall

Sometimes in this busy world we fail to look at the good things and pass them on to others. Because of that, I couldn’t resist posting this cute saying that I found at the bottom of an email I received a few days ago.

May your troubles be less, your blessings be more and nothing but happiness come through your door.

If it weren’t for troubles we wouldn’t know when it’s good. Sometimes bad things that happen can actually be a blessing in disguise. When we think positive thoughts usually happiness does come through our door. It’s when we give up that everything seems gloomy.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything, many times we writers give up when the going gets tough. It’s hard to get those rejections back in the mail. When someone criticizes part of our story sometimes it’s difficult to keep going.

Hope each of you will keep going this week, and every week in the future.

Monday, March 07, 2011

If I could Do It All Over Again... Part I

These are my notes from a panel discussion at LTUE in February. I hope you enjoy these notes. I love reviewing the things I learned in these workshops, which I found very helpful.

The title of this panel discussion was officially: What I would Do Differently if I could Do it All Over Again (a bit wordy). On the panel were: Lisa Mangum, editor for Deseret Book; Kathlene Dalton-Woodbury, short story writer and moderator for two Orson Scott Card online writers workshops; Brad R. Torgersen, science fiction writer; and Dave Farland, author, teacher, mentor.

The first question was the same as the title of the panel: what would you do differently if you could do it all over again?

Kathlene said, "Don't quit. Do not give up." She said even when you do start selling your work, don't think you've got it made. you can't call all the shots, even if you've already published a first book. Also, you'll still get rejections. Don't get discouraged. If an editor asks for more, they really do want more.

Lisa said, "We love to see stuff that comes in that's really good, but we don't get a lot in that's really good." She said writers should take requests for more seriously. One thing she said writers can do now is finish that first manuscript. She said that way, at least you'll be finished and you will experience that process of taking a manuscript from start to finish. She said once you've finished a manuscript, you don't feel like you're forever in the middle of it and feeling bad about yourself.

Dave said that there are several areas that authors need to learn about. First is learning how to write, which is one part of the business that authors really need to know. Many authors spend a lot of their time and efforts at learning the business side of publishing, but they're not writing. Other authors spend a lot of time working on publicity. Authors need to realize that there are three prongs that you need to start studying and do it in a balanced manner.

Kathlene said not to stress about formatting your manuscript. She suggested, where there are guides. She said not to obsess over it. She added that anything you can do to make the editor's job is great, but the writing itself is more important.

On a similar note, Lisa said, "Make it readable," and Brad said, "Don't edit your manuscript to death. Finish it. Send it out."

Kathlene said if you've written something to death (or edited it to death), don't try fixing it. Throw it away and start with a clean sheet of paper and write it again. You'll be applying everything you've learned and it will be better. It can still have a chance.

Lisa again stressed the importance of finishing and sending it out. The best advice she's heard for getting out of the slush pile is to be in the slush pile in the first place. Even if you're not sure about it, your work has to be in the slush pile for someone to find and read it.

Dave said that the connection between writer and editor is important. He said you have to connect with the right editor at the right time. Most of the time you just keep trying until someone discovers and loves your work.

Brad said you can make your own luck. He recommended being prolific. He said Keven J. Anderson has a theory called the popcorn theory. If you focus all your efforts on one item and then send that out with all your hopes pinned on it, it may or may not be successful, but if you have many things sent out, your chances are greater (he never really explained what that had to do with popcorn). He said you have to put yourself in the right places lots of times and that you probably don't know your own quality.

Lisa said she has never seen a perfect manuscript come in. Your work doesn't have to be perfect when you send it in. She thinks to herself, "Is it fixable?" If your perfectionism is holding you back, don't let it. Get over it. There's no such thing as a perfect manuscript.

Citing J.K. Rowling, Kathlene said that sometimes people complain about some best-selling authors' writing. But, she said, the people who loved her books didn't care about her writing. Good story will cover a multiple of sins. She recommended not starting writing in first person, because it's harder to expose the character. She said a good person wouldn't say that they're a good person. If you can write a good story, the rest is fixable.

Dave agreed. He said that very often, when new authors are starting out, they take literature classes, where they can learn some bad habits. He said don't focus too much on the prose. You need a good story idea. Basically, don't be too literary. On the other hand, there are John Grisham types out there. It's not unusual for someone to write terribly but tell a really good story. He said you can go out and write like James Joyce and nobody will understand or care about you, but people will get PhD's by explaining you. The way to sell a book is to tell a good story.

For next week: Part II, in which the panel discusses things like writing groups and conferences. Have a great week.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Never Give Up

By Keith N Fisher

We had an interesting discussion during critique group recently. It was spurred on by Miley Cyrus’ song, The Climb. The idea is clear. If people don’t enjoy the journey, then getting to the top of the hill can be a big disappointment.

In critique group the connotation was about getting published. I tried to advocate the need to keep trying, because getting published is what writing is all about. The publishing business is so competitive, and the odds are so much against us, that writers can’t afford to take their eyes off the mark.

Therefore the goal is to get published, then promote and sell your book. Build your brand and get published again.

Now, before you misunderstand, let me say I get it. It’s like waiting for Christmas and being disappointed when the big event finally comes. Rather than enjoy the season we sometimes anticipate the event to the exclusion of other activities. Therefore, I think enjoying the journey is great advice. After all, if you aren’t where you are, you ain’t nowhere.

So, not that she isn’t right, I just think it’s easy for Miley Cyrus to give that advice, her brand is known all over, but for those who struggle to get where she is, stopping to smell the roses could be fatal. They could get passed by. Why not take the roses with you on your journey?

The truth is, we all have responsibilities. We all need to enjoy our life. It’s the only one we get. There are many authors (especially in the LDS market) who suffer major disappointment after the release of their first book.

With that being said, it’s still easier for a published author to get published again. Now, you’ll undoubtedly point out that everyone has to submit and be rejected, and you would be right. However, with all things considered, publishers do give preference to an established author with a proven sales record. The rest of us have to work harder and keep our eyes on the goal, even if the realization is not what we expected. If you take your eyes off your goal, you might never reach it.

As you know, I used to go backpacking in the mountains. It was great to get back to nature and find new vistas, but I discovered a propensity toward taking my eyes off the goal. Often, when I stopped to rest in a beautiful place, I’d get so caught up in the views, the greater goal was forgotten. I’d set up camp and go back home in the morning. Finally, I learned to take pictures along the way, and keep my goal in sight.

My advice to all aspiring Authors is, keep your eye on the prize. Yes, enjoying the journey is very important, but it’s hard to reach a goal if you don’t know where it is. Live a good, rich life and be prepared for setbacks, because they will come even after publication. Deal with it and move on. Enjoy the journey, but don’t get sidetracked, and never, never, give up.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Anyone Have a Time Machine? Cheap?

by G.Parker

Okay.  Connie just blogged about organizing your time into segments where you're getting things accomplished according to priorities.  I totally agree.  My problem this week has been time in general.  I haven't had any.  I had to squeeze this blog in before getting to bed at a somewhat normal hour.
I think my life has gone into a blender and someone turned it on 'frape'.  It's not anything like it used to be.  I don't have time to breath sometimes, and I'm still trying to get everything in.  I manage to exercise usually, but it ends up being at 10 pm, when I'm trying to get in bed.  So who has time to write? 
I figure I just need a time machine, so I can go back and live the same time frame twice.  One time I'll do all the other stuff that needs to be done, and the second time I'll spend the time writing.  Then it will be like there's been a clone of me -- a writing clone.  Although, that could get ugly and I'd end up with something from Multiplicity.... 
Somehow the routine has to get back where it was so I can get the brain going again.  In looking at Connie's list, I really don't have much by way of non important things I'm doing - it's just everything has to be done in crunch time, and that makes everything else, like writing,  go on the back burner. 
Oh well.  So, seriously, anyone know if someone's really invented a time machine?  I'd write for food.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Soaking it In

by Cheri Chesley

This is my favorite picture of a relaxed baby, probably because it's my firstborn. He'll be 14 this July, but here he is, just a couple weeks old, soaking in the sun.

I'm sandwiched between a couple of pretty amazing ladies here at this Blogck, and I sure hope you have a chance to catch the wisdom they impart on their Wed and Fri posts.

Connie Hall posts on Wednesdays. She's a busy lady, and when she's able to impart her wisdom here, it's always a gem.

Gaynell Parker posts on Fridays. Her posts are always fun and insightful. You can tell she puts time and effort into what she's going to say. (unlike me, some of the time)

I'm highlighting these wonderful women today because Connie's a hard act to follow, and I make a poor opening act for Gaynell sometimes--but I'm learning. I appreciate the mentoring I receive and any help I get along the way. :)

This week has been a reflective one for me, as I fight yet another stupid infection. It's the coughing that really gets me, but I've said it before--I'm sick of talking about being sick all the time. I just feel it's worth a mention. Much better than trying to explain my absence due to trying to keep my head from exploding.

I've also been spending a lot of time with my kids. It's hard, sometimes, when I get caught up in the "musts" of being an author not to let that precious time I have with them slip by. More so when they're in school, since the waking hours they spend at home are so limited. The summer is different. This year, I'm not planning to write much during the summer at all. I'm just going to enjoy my family time.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Writing Arena

by C. LaRene Hall

If you want to do a better job in the writing arena, you need to control yourself and your environment. For me this means that I need to make time to write – that doesn’t mean finding free time. It means reallocating time from other projects and activities. Before you can do that, however, you must discover exactly where you are "spending" your time.

Unavoidable tasks. Your job, for example, would probably be included here. If you don’t go to work, you might be fired.

Necessary tasks. Obviously you're not going to give up cooking dinner, washing clothes, getting dressed, eating lunch, etc. Although at times, it would sure be nice. However, some of these tasks can be reassessed, rescheduled, or combined with other tasks.

Tasks that make you feel good. Don't give up everything you enjoy; that's a sure way to burn out. If you feel that you would truly lose something of value by giving up a particular activity, put it in this category.

Tasks you perform because you think you "should." Volunteer activities often fall into this category: You may not enjoy them, but you feel obligated to do them. Certain types of housework also fall into this category. This is a good place to look for time that you can reallocate to writing.

Tasks that someone else could perform. Sometimes, delegating such tasks not only frees time for you, but helps others become more responsible and independent.

Tasks that seem to take an inordinate amount of time. Often we lose time through distractions or "make work" without realizing what we are doing.

Tasks that are recreational. Reading, television, and computer games all fall into this category. So, in some cases, does "surfing the Internet", facebook, and handling e-mail. I know that sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all the email I get. You don't have to give up all your recreational activities to become a writer; however, if these are occupying a large number of hours, you may wish to reexamine your priorities.

You'll never have more time than you do right now. Time is never "found," it can only be made, but you can eliminate time-wasters. To me, time is precious, and I try to use it wisely.

If you have any other ideas on how to handle finding more time to write, I hope you will share them with me.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Don’t Let Your Voice be BORING!

By Darvell Hunt

Nobody wants to hear a great story written in the voice of a college research paper. Sadly, you can kill a great story if you don’t tell it right—but you can also dress up a so-so story by using a fresh and compelling voice.

But how? If you’re not a snarky, smart-aleck teenager, how do you write like one? Much has been said about finding your voice, but how do you find that voice if it’s not your natural self?

I think there are two ways this can happen—sometimes you can just click with our character and can write how they talk, even if it’s not like you talk. Yet sometimes, you can only achieve that great voice with long hours of practice and listening to real people similar to your target characters.

But hang on—let’s back up a little. What is voice? It’s simply how your story sounds to the reader. It’s not the plot, traits of the characters, or the setting, or anything like that—it’s how you put the words together to get all these other elements across to the reader in a compelling way. Your story is filtered through your voice.

The best way to waste a great story is to have a boring voice—and this will kill your chances of succeeding with the reader, as well as an agent or publisher.

So, how do you make your voice not boring?

This is a hard question to answer, but I suggest that you try make your voice real. Don’t just try to copy what you hear people who resemble your characters—but try to BE the people you are observing. Put yourself in their heads and try to think, act, and, yes, talk like they do.

A good writer is a good observer, but not just a copier. Since most of our stories—even high fantasy—are based upon real-life experiences, writers need to either have great experiences themselves or take the time to observe them. My best writing tends to be from personal experiences, but you can also glean great content from observing—and listening to—other people.

I personally have found that good voice is easier to achieve in first person narrative—but I also think it’s harder to perfect. As a learning experience, I wrote a novella once from the point of view of a woman in first person. It was a challenging experience and forced me to think outside of my normal life—but I think it’s turned out good.

It’s hard to say how to find that voice that will make your story great—but it’s also fairly easy to recognize when you’ve found it. If it’s good, you’ll know it—and so will others.